Sept '18

Mitigating the health risks of climate change

The way forward for sustainable development in Africa: action on climate change and environmental impacts on health

African goverNments act on climate

Action on climate change and the environmental impact on human health is the way forward for sustainable development in Africa. 

That is the central message of The International Network for Health and Climate in Africa (Clim-HEALTH Africa), a group of multi-regional institutions committed to strengthening the resilience of African countries and communities in the face of growing climate-related risks to human health.

The public-health impacts of climate change are especially pronounced in developing countries, which lack the protection of basic infrastructure and public health services. The poorest populations in Africa bear the heaviest burden of infectious diseases transmitted by insect vectors, as well as through unsafe food, and poor water and sanitation.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 28 percent of the disease burden in Africa, as well as 1.3 million preventable child deaths each year, is attributable to the environment. In children under the age of 14, this share reaches 36 percent.

These populations are also particularly vulnerable to the harmful health effects associated with exposure to chemical pollutants in air, water, food and soil. All of these health risks are highly sensitive to extreme weather events and climate variability. Climatic shifts, and the continuing degradation of ecosystems and natural resources in Africa, will only exacerbate the health risks for human populations on the continent.

The focus of Clim-Health Africa is the creation of early-warning systems for extreme heat and communicable diseases such as cholera, malaria and meningitis, as well as the development of capacity for understanding and responding to climate’s impact on the health and nutrition of food products.

The political momentum for the creation of Clim-HEALTH Africa was provided in part by the historic agreements reached at the first and second Interministerial Conferences on Health and Environment in Africa, which have paved the way towards a more integrated approach to policy-making in the health and environment sectors.

Clim-HEALTH Africa was established in view of better incorporating health in climate change-related policies and strategies amongst the member states. It also serves as a virtual hub where expertise is shared in order to develop the capacity of African health and climate communities, institutions, practitioners and negotiators to understand and integrate climate-change challenges into policy, socio-economics, planning and programming.

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